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06/13/04 - Rafting "Bighorn Sheep Canyon and The Royal Gorge" on the Arkansas River

Another year and another rafting trip! We choose the Royal Gorge this year based on the Class III to Class V crazy ole rapids that it promised! Cassel came out for this trip so it was going to be a drunken weekend of camping and rafting. We found a spot along Hayden Creek right outside of Cotopaxi and set up shop for two nights. With four and a half cases of cheap canned beer and enough firewood to make a redneck happy, we were set. The first night we had to put together the grill first before being able to cook pork chops and a giant salmon fillet. Cassel almost fell into the fire after a couple (okay, a few) beers and we danced the night away to C and C Music Factory, courtesy of Peggy.
On Saturday Peggy and I hiked Mt Princeton while Cassel and Stinger started and 6hr wiffleball tournament. It rained for a few minutes, nothing bad, and we proceeded to try and finish off the cheap beer along with some Jager and a bottle of Patrone. The ham and bacon cheese burgers that night were the highlight of the eating festival! As usual, anything that didn't get used or eaten...got burned, this included a "fire roasted bag of lettuce" and my beach chair. Keith and Beth joined us that evening after hiking. After chowing and partying, Keith soon had his head between his knees preparing for an aircraft water landing.
Finally Sunday morning came and it was time to go rafting! Cassel felt like absolute death and made several trips to the woods the night before to empty his stomach. John and Marci met us at the Arkansas River Tours office and we went through the waivers, wetsuits, helmets, and safety talks. Finally on the water we were paddling for about 10 minutes and a D-ring on the raft decides to eat a giant chunk of Cassel's finger! Blood everywhere and after a quick patch job we were ready to go again, later to find the hunk of his finger still in the D-ring! Yuk!
Keith, Beth, Peggy, Stinger, Cassel, and I were in the same raft and John and Marci in the other with a bearded woman and a few others. The Bighorn Sheep Canyon was 11 miles long and somewhat calm with a few moments of intense Class III rapids with names like: Prelude, Reefer Madness, Spikebucket, and Sharks Tooth. This mixed things up nicely and got us ready for the ass-slamming we would get in the afternoon. So after some lunch at the side of the river we headed in the 9 miles of the Royal Gorge, things got pretty exciting right away as we got tossed all over the raft like we were rag dolls! Peggy was scared to death and Stinger had an ear-to-ear grin on constantly, Cassel and I were in the front of the raft getting slammed repeatedly in the face and chest with walls of water. Luckily none of us got the ejection seat out of the raft through rapids such as: Sledgehammer, Wallslammer, the Narrows, Boateater, and Sunshine Falls. Sunshine Falls was definitely the coolest, the guide warned us on the way there just as we watched the raft in front of us completely disappear! There were a series of three drops that were several feet each. When you hit them its complete air under the front of the raft till you slam down back into the water, just as you're trying to get back in your seat there's another huge drop! Very intense. The top of the Gorge is over 1000' above the river and you can just barely make out all the tourists on the bridge. Great scenery and crazy ole intense rapids! Once the trip was over we made our way back to Cotopaxi to change and hit the road. It was a real sleepy drive back to Colorado Springs, but why stop there....gotta hit The Loop in Manitou for giant margaritas!

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06/07/03 - Rafting "The Numbers/Narrow" on the Arkansas River

I've been meaning to go rafting for a few years now, and with the Colorado rivers flowing at all time highs from all the snow melt, this year would be ideal. There are several rafting outfitters to choose from so we narrowed them down based on what we wanted to do. We wanted a full day trip on something hard yet requiring no previous experience since most of us were rafting-greenhorns. Based on that, we chose Arkansas Valley Adventures and the Numbers/Narrows section on a full-day trip, it was FANTASTIC! The rapids were topping out at Class IV/V and downright intense.
Hendler was in town so we hiked Mt Elbert on Friday to wear off a hangover then found a great camping spot along 390, near Vicksburg. Peggy and Robyn met us there that evening and John and Stinger met us at the rafting place just down the road the following morning. We awoke to freezing temps and snow and were wondering if we would actually be rafting. An hour later by the time we had our wetsuits, helmets, and PFD on, the skies were opening up bright and blue! It worked out real nice cause the boats needed 6 people and a guide and we had 6 in our group. Our guide was a bit scared when we told him that only 2 of us had rafted before, but we were equally freaked out when he told us that this was his first time guiding the Numbers/Narrows!
We were in the raft about 30 seconds before we hit the first set of rapids. It was AMAZING and we all had monster grins on our faces! It wasn't long before folks from other rafts were getting ejected and John got bounced out before too long. I wish I could've captured the look of fear and desperation on his face before Stinger and Hendler pulled him back in! We were all getting tossed around like rag dolls and "assumed the cellmate position" several times. After getting through a few sets of rapids we had it down pretty good and worked real well with the guides instructions. He played with us some by ramming us into rocks and making sure we all got soaked even more. At one point we stopped because one of the other rafts lost some people, moments later a raft floated by with just 2 people in it. After they got fished out of the river, apparently a couple of them decided that they had enough rafting for the day and caught a ride back (not in a raft). Several "Arkansas River Enemas" later we stopped for a great lunch of chicken fajitas while shivering.
The Narrows sections was a bit easier but had its scary points when the river would come down to the width of 2 rafts and plenty of monstrous boulders to hit! It was pretty amazing that we were able to go side to side across the river and get down the spots we needed to. Seemingly on purpose the guide had us paddle full speed just to direct us right into a boulder! After the initial blow we would find ourselves in different spots all over the raft and in each others laps. The trip was over way too soon for all of us and it would've been great to shoot the Numbers again that day. Rafting in the spring is now on the yearly "to-do" list.
Back at the camp we slugged down beers, wine, tequila and Jager while laughing about the days events and talking about how awesome it was. After a few rounds of "Rock Shot Put" the sun was down and the campfire was lit. Hopefully none of us got a bad case of Monkey Pox from the weekend.....

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